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Cheshire & Dormouse Peak

A rare ascent of a little known, very remote peak named for the Alice in Wonderland theme of the area – Cheshire Peak. A gorgeous approach, sneaky difficult step and hiking at over 3000 meters with views of the most remote and hard to access east faces in Banff National Park make this a highlight day in the mountains in 2022 for me. Dormouse Peak felt like a pretty simple add-on after all that.

Exploring the Upper Ram River

What can I say about this 3-day trip? I am so lucky to enjoy trips like this in these pristine areas of the Alberta Rockies. Yes, this is an OHV and horse traffic area but once you get off the main drags and into the back valleys this is as pristine a landscape as you’re going to find pretty much anywhere on earth. I will not soon forget walking through alpine meadows at sunrise or under soaring rock gates straight out of a LOTR movie. This is the kind of country that sits deep down in your soul and refuses to leave once you’ve experienced it.

Oval Peak

Oval Peak was a quick and easy 5th summit from the north shoulder as Sara and I passed by it on route to the Brazeau River and the South Boundary Trail far below. Views of Afternoon Peak’s north face and over the meadows towards Mount McDonald, Frances and Lonely Peak make this peak a worthwhile objective if you’re in the area anyway. On its own it’s a pretty lengthy march to nowhere for a lowly summit.

McDonald, Mount

Mount McDonald is one of those peaks that once you find out about it, it grabs your attention. Or at least that’s what happened to me. I’m not even sure how or why, but I was perusing bivouac.com one day and came across Rick Collier’s photo trip report from a 2011 excursion into the area with David P. Jones. What caught my attention immediately wasn’t even the peak – it looked a little dreary and very easy. It was the large lake located south of the mountain that really got my explor8ion juices flowing and I immediately started dreaming of visiting this obviously special place at the headwaters of a pretty major drainage.

Wandering the White Goat Wilderness

In 2015 I was invited by Eric Coulthard to do a trip into an area I’d never been before – or even really heard of. He suggested we tag a couple of lofty summits in the White Goat Wilderness Area. I’d seen a few of the peaks in this area from nearby summits including Mount Stewart from Mount Coleman (the first trip I’d done with Eric way back in 2009) and Mount Willis which I’d spotted from Corona Ridge earlier in 2015. We had a fantastic trip and ever since I’ve been planning to go back.

Wolverine Peak (Auditor)

Wolverine Peak is one of the best stiff moderates that I’ve done in the past 5 or 6 years or even longer. A wonderful, scenic approach on a good trail followed by some of the best exposed hands-on scrambling in the area should elevate this peak on any Rockies scrambler’s list.

Bonnet & Hickson Peak

This was a trip that will not soon be forgotten for all the right reasons and a few of the ‘wrong’ ones. I suggest taking a little more time than we did to enjoy the long trek in and out and pick a season with fewer biting insects than we had at camp. Bonnet and Hickson make a wonderful duo of peaks that deserve much more attention from the summer and fall hiking and scrambling community. Get after ’em!

Adventures at Trident Lake

I can’t stress enough how difficult biking up the series of OHV, horse trails and roads from Cutoff Creek up the Clearwater River is. I know everyone can do everything but this is next level suffering – especially with an overnight pack on your back. You might wonder about using paniers instead of a pack, but good luck hoisting your bike onto your shoulders with this option. Or bushwhacking. Put it this way – this trip is among the hardest on this site and there’s a few doozies available to choose from! Don’t get me wrong. The bike ride is a spectacular, wild approach along pristine valleys, soaring peaks and vast alpine meadows brimming with wildflowers. It is also, however, a tough, painful grind along rough horse trails, muddy OHV tracks and unbridged water crossings. My GoPro smoothes out the bumps but I think you can get a good sense of the effort by watching the movie I put together on our explor8ion.

Mistaya Mountain

Swooping down the Peyto Glacier with views of giant snow covered peaks – every one of them a familiar sight – I reflected how freaking lucky we are to live where we live and have the fitness and health to enjoy this sport.

Turquoise Peak (Hector Lake)

It felt really good to ski out along Hector Lake in t-shirts under a blue sky with a gentle, cool breeze at our backs. I cannot stress enough how much more pleasurable this day on Hector Lake felt in comparison to my previous 5 crossings. I never felt rushed all day and the conditions were so good that I didn’t feel my usual exhaustion at the return lake crossing either. And this was all while in the middle of a 25+ hour fast too! I guess conditions really do affect mood and energy more than we think sometimes. Turquoise Peak will sit among my favorite ski tours of winter 2021/22 for a great many reasons.

Storm Mountain – Ski Ascent

As the 3rd weekend of April 2022 approached I was more than a little keen to bag another peak on skis before the season of snow sticks comes to an end for another year. The Preacher was a highlight ski trip that carried me through a month of no-adventure weekends but a rib injury courtesy of a family ski trip to Sunshine knocked me out longer than I was happy with. Finally as the 4-day Easter long weekend approached, I felt ready to test the injury. I started with double laps on Prairie Mountain for Friday and Saturday before deciding it was time to push the injury a bit further. I contacted Sara Mclean and she was in for a Sunday ascent of Storm Mountain.

Preacher, The

Holy buzzoly. Cripes on a cracker. Hot damn. How in the heck do I manage to forget the feelings of despair, misery and plain physical suffering involved in these length ski tours across the frozen middle of f’ing nowhere?! I must have a busted brain or something. Any normal humanoid would maybe try it once and thenceforth swear it off for the rest of their life but not me. For some unknown and unfathomable reason I continue to come back again and again to the same threshold of pain and misery. And I keep thinking, “it won’t be that bad”. And yet, it’s always that bad – or even worse! I must admit that I do enjoy pushing my mind and body to the edge. There’s a strange energy lurking at the edge of human endurance and the only way to experience it is to get there and the only way to get there is to suffer your way over to it. I’ve only managed to push myself to this place at the edge of conscious, controllable thought a few times in the mountains but it’s always left an impression that the trip was worth every moment of pain it demanded. The Preacher may not be the tallest, the most prominent or the most challenging peak in the world but it’ll always stand out in my memory as one of the good ones. Thanks to Sara and Wietse for greatly assisting me in making this one happen!

Chick-a-Boom Ski Traverse

The chick-a-boom ski traverse is a classic for a reason. The views and positions along the entire route are stunning on a clear day like we enjoyed. We all said we’d definitely repeat it some day. My advice is leave early for this tour if you want to be at the front of the pack or leave slightly later if you want to follow. Just beware of the south facing exit from Boom col and manage risks appropriately.

Chapel Peak (Collesha)

It took me 8 years but on the 2nd weekend of February 2022 I finally managed to ski a peak that’s been on my list ever since 2014 when I climbed its neighbors, Mount Collie and Ayesha. I knew Chapel Peak as “Collesha” for many years before reading David Jones Rockies West (pg. 55) where the more proper sounding (still unofficial) name comes from.

Smutwood Peak

I loved this hike even more than I thought I would. Sure! It’s overused and over photographed and definitely overshared but that doesn’t change the fact that I had a wonderful time with my daughter enjoying some of the best views of my year from this lowly objective. And that’s what it all comes down to in the end isn’t it? Sharing nature and fresh air while exercising with loved ones and being amazed over and over with stunning views of wild landscapes in all directions. The fact that thousands of others have shared this experience shouldn’t lessen it but should encourage us to seek out new experiences rather than going back to the same ones over and over. I won’t be back to Smutwood in the fall any time soon but I sure am thankful for this particular trip.

Headwall Peak

I was surprised to return to the truck within 5.5 hours of leaving it – I never felt rushed all day and yet this was a very short outing to a relatively untraveled 3000m+ peak. I highly recommend Headwall Peak to the scrambling community. It is the perfect fall outing but would be good any time of year as long as the SE face is snowfree and dry. 

Haiduk Peak (+ North Hawk Ridge)

As you can probably tell from the amount of photos and superlatives in this report, I great enjoyed the convoluted ramble from hwy 93, up Hawk Creek and over to Haiduk Peak. This route might not seem very straightforward – and it’s not – but considering that it avoids almost all bushwhacking and allows you to enjoy the only remaining larch forests in Verdant Creek it is 100% worth the hassle. And can you really call it a hassle when your day involves a good trail, fresh water and air, bursting fall colors, blue skies, swirling clouds, fresh snow and distant views of hidden giants? I call that a win every day of the week and especially on a Tuesday.

Solstice Peak

Solstice Peak far exceeded my expectations both on the approach with almost no bushwhacking and on the peak with interesting routefinding and some difficult scrambling to the summit. I’ve said this on a few scrambles so far this year, but Solstice had just enough of everything I look for in a scramble and not too much that I don’t look for.

Cone Mountain, Turbulent, Fortulent Peaks

I really enjoyed this three or four peak outing despite the lack of a good approach trail and the thick smoke on Cone Mountain. It always surprises me how many fairly prominent peaks continue to stand on their own for many years between ascent parties (recorded anyway). This trip summarizes what I love about the Alberta Rockies – accessible but remote. Over a very popular trail system but rarely ascended. Views to die for, acres of wildflowers and cascading waterfalls hidden by high rock walls on all sides. Lakes and tarns that are only visible from nearby or from space only add to the attraction.

Apparition Mountain

I enjoyed the ascent of Apparition Mountain very much. The early evening lighting, the sneaky route through the cliffs and the exposed ridge walk near the summit block all added up to more engagement than I expected when planning this scramble. At less than 2.5 hours round trip from a camp at Spectral Lakes it’s an obvious no-brainer for anyone brave enough to stay overnight in such a ghost themed area!

Revenant Mountain (Steacie)

I highly recommend Revenant Mountain for competent scramblers. The mountain itself is almost easy after the somewhat involved approach to the Spectral Lakes. The east face is complex but the route opens up once you’re on it, guiding you forward and up to the south ridge. The scrambling is engaging enough to keep you distracted from all the work you’ve done to get there. A favorite for me and a very nice feather in my scrambling cap – one I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time.

Ghostly Endeavors on Brocks Peak & Spectral Lakes

I highly recommend this trip for those who like some adventure with their cornflakes and I use that word literally here. You might not get all the peaks on day 1 or even day 3 but you are guaranteed to have some adventure while trying!

Sira Peak

Despite a terrible bug experience along the Forty Mile Creek trail, I can’t rave about this route on Sira Peak enough. This peak goes into my top 10 easy remote summits for several reasons including the lovely approach trail, incredible fields of flowers, lovely tarns and lofty summit views. The fact that so few people bother with this officially unnamed “V10” summit despite its 3000 meter apex only makes me love it even more. Highly recommended for backpackers who are in the area or fit parties as a relatively straightforward day trip from the Norquay ski resort.

33 Hours up the Ram River

The very fact that we looked at all the shitty snow and gray cloud on day one and said, “sure – we can handle this” is the thing that will make this particular trip extra special in the memory banks. Travelling over 72 kilometers in just over 1.5 days including 3 peaks in less-than-ideal conditions leaves an impression. I’m not saying it’s all a unicorns and fresh roses impression, but it’s a wild ride that won’t fade as quickly as some others I have stored in there somewhere! As of my writing this a week later my toes are still recovering from the harsh beating but the rest of me wants to go back up the Ram River sooner than later.

33 Hours up the Clearwater River

What can I say about this area in summary? Well, to make a long story short – it’s worth the fight to access it but you will have to earn its charms one way or the other.